Monday, 18 March 2013

A Glimpse

On Saturday I was able to recapture the novelty of living in Beijing.

So often we stick to what we know and refuse to go out. Or if we do go out, we go out in a group as a herd, loud and boisterous, easily missing the beauty surrounding us.

To combat my own tendencies of complacency I’m making it a goal to get out more on my own and explore. Saturday I did just this and it’s surprising what can come out of it. The best part of my day was when I went to a well-known subway stop and got off to walk around. Little did I know there was a big festival going on so the streets were filled with Chinese men and women. There where streamers and red lanterns hanging from all the buildings windows. On the side of the main road were stalls filled with small treats and toys to buy. I especially liked the flying paper airplanes that you had to rotate with your hands and then send them spinning off. I asked how much it was for one and they said 14 kuai, nonetheless I received two for 10 and we were both happy.

After walking around I sat down on a bench and started on my homework which was to write a letter in Chinese. I had only gotten a quarter through it when I noticed how much attraction I was drawing. People would walk by and then suddenly turn around peer over my shoulder. Not minding the company I would try to engage them in conversation. Some would reply, while others were convinced I could only write it and not truly speak. I had one lady and her family come and sit beside me. She was leaning heavily on one crutch and I noticed it was to make-up for the loss of her right leg. Making room for them to sit, they noticed what I was writing. The following conversation went a lot like this;

Father : “Hey, she’s writing in Chinese”

Mother: “What? What was that??”

Father : “look, look, Chinese characters”

Mother: “ohh, Foreigners these days”

The Mother then started reading my letter out-loud and correcting my mistakes. I edited my letter accordingly hoping she wasn't going to leave anytime soon. After a quick appraisal she nodded her head approvingly and left me to my own musings. Whenever I had a question I would gently get her attention and have her proof-read a sentence. Their child would just stare at me with big eyes and then shyly duck his head under his Father’s arm. After 20 minutes or so they figured they had rested enough and got up to leave. I thanked them for their help and within seconds they were gone, just one of the dozens ambling through the crowd.

Though it was such a little thing it made a big impression. I was able to be more than a passive observer of those around me. Being able to interact brought the atmosphere to life and made the day more vivid. For me it was a glimpse of what is, and what is still yet to come. If I’m dedicated enough to learning the language I will not only be able to understand, but I will be able to comprehend.

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